Value of Operational Efficiency Beyond Emissions Reductions
By now, you've arrived at the decision to evaluate your emissions contributions, because it makes good business sense, your customers are requiring it, it's the right thing to do, or you're anxious to meet mandated emissions regulations. No matter the reason, you're here, and how you approach this endeavor could mean the difference between an expensive, ineffective experience and one that is profitable and rewarding, fattens your bottom line, and meets customer and regulatory requirements.
Recognizing the truth behind the old adage, “what gets measured gets done,” the first step in evaluating operational efficiency is: know how much energy you use so a baseline can be determined. Current energy use can be evaluated in an absolute sense, meaning the total amount of energy used in a given year can be calculated. This is the most straightforward approach and can be used in conjunction with other alternative measurements. You could effectively quantify the ratio of energy use per dollar of revenue, the ratio of energy use per unit manufactured, or your facility's energy use per square foot of manufacturing space and ultimately achieve the same level of clarity on the impact of your company's efforts to spur emissions. You also walk away with action items for reducing the energy intensity of your supply chain.
The next step is to evaluate existing incomplete upgrades or repairs that your maintenance and manufacturing teams have already identified. It may also be prudent to work with an energy audit firm or suppliers of your more energy-intensive equipment to evaluate opportunities to reduce the energy use or energy intensity of certain processes. Some of the most common project types identified are: lighting projects, equipment upgrades like new boiler burners, HVAC systems, and building envelope improvements, like windows and insulation. More complex projects could include onsite generation or use of alternative fuels. Once the projects have been identified, you should set an expected return on investment. Many companies find that projects with less than a two-year payback are projects well worth doing.
Lastly, when the scope of opportunity and the associated costs are well understood, the final step is to consider creating publicly stated goals or targets. There is nothing more compelling than to be held accountable to your commitments. Practicing proactive energy management today prepares your company to be a more robust and fiscally responsible supplier and competitor. An added benefit is the reduction of your climate risk when and if significant legislation has already become a factor.